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Understanding Gold Purity and Markings!

  • 375: 37.5% gold, or 9K. In the US, the minimum standard for gold is 10K.
  • 417: 41.7% gold, or 10K gold. Very commonly used in jewellery and very strong. Great for jewelry for those who use it, who need something that will hold up.
  • 585: 58.5% gold, or 14K gold. Good, strong gold but with a bit more gold than 10K.
  • 750: 75.0% gold, or 18K gold. Much more pure than 14K, still has decent strength
  • 916: 91.6% gold, or 22K gold. This is probably the softest and most pure gold that you would want to have a piece of jewelry.
  • 999: 99.9% gold, or 24K gold. This is the purest that you can buy, and although purity can be up to six nines fine, or 999.999, it’s highly rare to find it so pure. Such fineness in gold was last refined in the 1950’s by The Perth Mint in Australia.

What are Karats?

Karats, spelled ‘carats’ outside of North America, are the little numbers stamped on a piece of gold in the format of ‘xxK’ or ‘xxKT’ and it serves as a reference for the type of gold it is stamped on. It refers to the actual gold content in that particular piece of jewelry. Here’s some info on Karats:

  • The higher the Karat, the purer the gold.
  • Lower Karat jewellery contains less gold and more of an alloy metal, such as copper.
  • Other metals are added to gold to strengthen it from its malleable state or even to enhance color, such as in rose gold.

Karats serve as a way to determine just how pure that gold really is! 24 Karats is the highest Karat you can buy with the most purity that is readily available for purchase. Knowing this little piece of information is vital to you being able to calculate the gold content on your very own! Say you purchase a ring that is 14K gold, since the maximum amount of Karats you can have is 24K, you divide the 14 Karats by the 24 max Karats, and you get .583, or 58.3% pure gold. Is it getting a bit easier to understand now? Let’s move on!

Low Karats vs. High Karats

More purity of gold does not necessarily mean better, it simply means more pure, worth more money, and more expensive! With gold, the phrase “less is more” can certainly apply. As stated earlier, the less pure the gold is, the more alloy metals it contains, which means it’s stronger! This is good especially when it comes to jewelry as 24K gold is way too soft to make jewellery with. The lower the karats in that ring, the stronger it will be with other metals. Let’s compare lower and higher Karats:

  • The lower the Karat, the stronger it will be, while higher Karats will be softer.
  • Lower Karats are not very tarnish-resistant, but higher Karats are much more resistant to tarnishing.
  • Lower Karats are not worth as much monetarily, while higher Karats are worth much more as they are purer.
  • Higher Karat gold will appear more yellow.

The purity of gold you should go for all depends on what you intend to use it for if it will be subjected to a lot of force that can damage it, and your personal preferences as far as gold goes!

Purity Conversion: Millesimal Fineness to Karats

Sometimes the numbers can get confusing, especially if you are used to one system such as Karats, but are shopping in a foreign place which uses an entirely different purity identification system. To make it easier, here is a chart that lays it all out.

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